Jari-Matti Latvala has been forced to retire from the lead of Rally Finland, his Toyota Yaris WRC struck down by a suspected electrical failure midway through the famous Ouninpohja stage.
Latvala was engaged in a close battle with his team-mate Esapekka Lappi for the lead, but at the 11 kilometre mark the former Finn’s Yaris ground to a halt with no power.
A furious Latvala was left banging his hands on the wheel, turning to dejection when realising his hopes had been dashed. Spectators pushed his stricken car into a side-road soon after team-mate Lappi flew past and into the lead.
With Sébastien Ogier retiring from the rally on Friday and Thierry Neuville struggling for pace down in seventh, a victory at his home event would have catapulted Latvala back into championship contention.
Instead, the baton has been passed to Lappi to spearhead Toyota’s quest for victory at the team’s home event, the Toyota team run by Tommi Mäkinen Racing not far outside host city Jyväskylä. Despite having inherited a large lead from Latvala’s retirement, Lappi was far from happy at the circumstances in which it was earned.
“I didn’t want to be leading like this. It’s a real shame,” he said at the end of the stage. When it was pointed out to him he had been competing for victory on merit before Latvala’s retirement, he replied “Still, this is not nice.”
Lappi now holds a 54.1 second lead over the other remaining Toyota of Juho Hänninen, with two stages left to run in Saturday’s itinerary.